Founded on fallacyMarch 19, 2009 — Deacon Duncan
In my discussion of miracles, I compared two types: Type A miracles, in which God actually shows up in person to do something supernatural, and Type B miracles, in which people observe some poorly understood phenomenon which they merely attribute to God because they don’t know what the real cause is. My question is, why would people only cite Type B miracles if they had any Type A miracles to offer as evidence of God’s existence? Commenter cl, however, takes it a step further.
If Type A miracles didn’t exist even in the Bible, why are you justified in expecting them to exist now? Further, wouldn’t even Type A miracles retain capacity for doubt? How would you know the perpetrator in the videotape or photograph was God and not really Satan or some other deity?
When I say, “God does not show up in real life,” what I’m saying is that there are no Type A miracles, because if there were, they’d be at the top of the list.
So you’ll believe if someone can produce videotape of God performing a miracle? How would you know it was real? How would you know it was God? How would you know it wasn’t a hoax? I sure wouldn’t, and you’ve really got me confused.
This is a very crucial point, because Christianity in particular claims to be the product of God showing up to reveal the Gospel Truth to men, so that they might be saved. If, however, Type A miracles didn’t exist even in the Bible, then the people who invented the Judeo-Christian tradition have no way of knowing whether the source of their religion is actually God. Christianity is therefore founded on the fallacy of drawing positive, declarative conclusions based on not knowing what you are talking about.
This is the fatal flaw in religions whose deity is an absentee God. Even if we grant, for the sake of argument, that it might be possible for there to be rare, isolated, and obscure exceptions to the general principle that God does not show up in real life, the overwhelming majority of human beings are left without any way to recognize God even if He did show up, as cl says.
How do we know that cows are really cows? It’s almost a trick question, but one of the easiest answers is that we use the term “cows” to refer to those large four-legged animals that go “moo” and give milk, and those animals are real, i.e. they consistently show up in real life. Even if you can convince me that those are not “cows,” they would still exist and I’d need to call them something, and “cow” is as good a term as any. Besides, what else is there that you would refer to as a “cow”?
It’s the same way with God. If He showed up in real life, consistently and predictably and familiarly, then there’d really be no more point in asking “How do you know it’s really God?” than there would be in asking “How do you know those are really cows?” The objective, external, real-world standard is what gives the term its meaning. IF, of course, the objective, external, real-world referent exists.
That’s what would work, if God showed up in real life enough to allow us to have faith in Him. But He doesn’t, and hence cl’s confusion. Because God does not show up in real life, we can’t be sure it would be Him even if He did work a miracle, not even if He did show up. God’s absence prevents us from having sufficient familiarity with Him to reliably identify Him in real-world situations. We are necessarily limited to superstition and gullibility as the basis for our so-called “faith.”
This is a very, very serious flaw, especially in a Gospel that proclaims faith in God as a prerequisite for salvation. What we need, we cannot obtain; what we have boils down to naive trust in our own subjective fantasies, intuitions, superstition, and hearsay. No wonder Christianity is so divided and confused!
It’s a great system for self-indulgent worldview-building. God’s failure to show up in real life gives us enormous latitude for believing whatever seems right in our own eyes, free from any fear of contradiction (at least by God or by any observable characteristics of God). And if Christians would simply mind their own business, and not amend constitutions in order to oppress those they don’t like, they’d be harmless and unobjectionable, if a bit quirky.
The problem is that superstition tends towards irrational fears. Because God does not show up in real life, people have no choice but to give credence to whatever paranoias their subjective superstitions may suggest. Does it make sense to believe that God would respond to gay marriage by breaking up the relationships of heterosexual Christians? Of course not, but Christians still believe that it would somehow be devastatingly “bad luck” if gays were allowed to marry. God’s consistent absence prevents them from having a real-world basis for their faith, and therefore reality imposes no constraints on what they fear. And other people are made to suffer as a result.